Part 8 - Searching for Jussi Peltola - 2

On 16th of June, after four hours of driving, we were once again by the bridge. A couple of minutes after stopping the car, we were back in action. The plan was to first try to check if it the ‘pile of rocks’ was magnetic, by casting a magnet and dragging it over the pile. If the magnet didn’t catch, it would be a pile of rocks. If if did catch, it would probably be a car. An additional benefit would be that if it caught, we would have a solid connection to it. We could follow the rope with the ROV, making it much easier to find the car.

My brother started to throw the magnet, aiming for the spot I had measured from the sonar images. The first throw - nothing. The second throw - nothing.

Casting the magnet Reeling the magnet in.

The third throw caught onto something. After a firm pull, it felt like it was bouncing over something nonmetallic, and then it caught again.

He threw it again. After a couple more throws, bubbles of air started to shoot from the water. It was as if a diver was underwater. It went on for quite a long time. Finally the bubbling stopped and the river started to fill with an oily substance, which looked like benzine or diesel.

It started to dawn on us that we might have actually found something. It was time to launch the ROV.

Immediately there were problems. Only two of the ROV’s three cameras started. No matter what I did, the third one would not start. I decided to continue with only two cams working. Luckily, the front cam worked. The second problem was the sun. It was noon and the sun was blindly shining from the clear sky, so I couldn’t see much on the laptop’s display.

The third problem was that the river was murky. The ROV had three 1.000 lumen led lights. Even with the lights, the visibility was approximately 15 centimeters (6 inches). The fourth problem, the current, was the worst. The river had an amazingly strong current which wasn’t visible from the surface. It was soon clear that the ROV’s engines wouldn’t stand a fighting chance against the current.

We had to improvise. Carefully selecting the spot where the ROV was launched and fishing it back when it missed the target, we were able to make progress. After several tries, I was able to pilot the ROV following the line a bit deeper than on previous tries. Then, from the darkness of the water, something faint came into sight. It was glaring. For a moment, I was paralyzed. The glare was from a Citroën logo on the wheel of a car.

I had to hold myself back from not shouting out loud. It took a couple of minutes to compose myself before I could say it:

“There’s a car!”

D = Depth, temp (outside / inside), -1 = not working

We continued for half an hour, trying to get footage of the license plate but the current was just too strong. The ROV got caught in the branches of a tree, probably on the top of the car, and got stuck. After a firm yank from the tether and we got both, the ROV and the branch back on the shore.

After a while we decided there was sufficient evidence. The laptop’s battery was dead, and we had no way to charge it. We decided to call the police.

To our surprise no one seemed to be interested in the case. The emergency dispatch lost interest after hearing the car was old. After several phone calls, the only one who was interested in our find was the local fire brigade. They wanted to see the extent of the spilled gasoline.

The oil spill The picture doesn’t show the full extent but the whole river was covered with an oily substance, like benzine or diesel.

While we were waiting for the firemen, we walked along the road by the bridge. I had walked the same route in November, when I visited the site. Back then I couldn’t find anything of interest. Now, we started to find pieces of plastic, clearly from a car. Some even had the manufacturing date matching the age of the Citroen. I found a piece of black casing, later identified as a probable front fog light casing matching the one the Citroën had.

When the firemen finally arrived, we were met with a mixed reaction. They were at the same time really interested but suspicous. They said that even though they wanted to dive the place, they couldn’t do it without an official request from the police. I guess we finally passed their test and got their trust, when the chief fireman promised to personally dive the place if they wouldn’t receive the official request.

It was dawning on us that nobody was going to do anything about the case in a while. We left our contact info and asked to be kept posted.

We packed the car and started our journey back to the north.

We hadn’t got far by the time my phone rang. It was a policeman asking if the car we had found was old. When hearing that it was old, he just ended the call. A couple of minutes later another police called to tell me that we couldn’t talk about what had found. The case was finally getting their attention.

We kept driving north until after about 30 minutes, the chief fireman called:

“We’re going to dive soon. You guys want to come back.”

So we made a u-turn, and headed back to the site.

We were only gone for a bit over an hour but when we arrived at the site it was buzzing with activity. There were uniform cops, a detective sergeant, a technical investigator, and a diving team.

While the diving team was getting ready, we walked around the site and briefed the police with the information we had. When the team was ready and the diver was about to start, the detective sergeant turned to us and said:

“It is my unpleasant duty to ask you to leave the site now.”

We were a bit stunned as we walked to the car. In the heat of the moment we never saw it coming, even though it was the only logical thing for the detective sergeant to do. It was about 20:00 and we had had a long day. We had barely eaten anything, so we started making coffee.

After half an hour, the technical investigator come around and discreetly informed us that they found the car. Not long after the detective sergeant came and thanked us profoundly.

It felt great to get confirmation about the find. However, there wasn’t a surge of overwhelming emotions. I was just glad that the world was starting to see what I felt we had seen for a better part of a year.

The Media

It was noon the next day, when my phone rang. I heard that there was an article in the news about the find.

About an hour later, there was another article in a different outlet. After that, all hell broke loose. Even though my number was not listed and I wasn’t on any social media except Linkedin, my phone was ringing off the hook. There was also a stream of emails, asking for interviews.

We were really not prepared for the media. We had speculated about what would happen if we actually found the car. We’d thought it might perhaps be a small piece in a local newspaper, nothing like what it actually turned out to be.

It felt unreal seeing ourselves in the following days’ papers. Luckily, we were treated well by the media.

The media kept asking what our next step was. They wanted to know if we were going to continue searching for missing persons. I played it cool, and kept saying that we would see what happens. But that wasn’t true. The search for the next case was already underway.